I have just finished reading Mark Haddon’s book called the Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night Time. The protagonist is an autistic child and like all autistic children, excels in observing details closely but unable to absorb a gamut of information to obtain a holistic picture. He focuses deeply and acutely and is unable to make a holistic picture of things around him. All that he does is to note the details down and leaves the reader to piece together his numerous observations into a grand story. One glance at the pages leaves us in no doubt that Karan Johar’s film, My Name Is Khan has been totally inspired by this curious case of the curious child written in a curious style of the autistic mind. As a film produced in the industry assembly line of Bollywood, the Khan film belongs to the larger group of films made on disabilities – Black, made after the Miracle Makers, a take on the life of Hellen Keller, Koi Mil Gaya, a story of a spastic child with amazing learning skills and life skills, Pa, a film on a child afflicted with an ageing diseases. When different abilities have caught Bollywood imagination, surely it has to do with some advantage that such “disabilities” now accrue.
I think that somewhere the digital society is inundated and choked with a surfeit of information that beat us down through every moment of our existence. There is too much news, too many views, too many visuals, too much music, too many books, too many films, too many events and not to miss out, too much food to eat and taste. We get breathless by trying to even glance at every option that comes to us and making a well reckoned choice is a near impossibility. In such a state of affairs in the world, our disabilities become the only way to eliminate some options and slow down the rate of stimuli hitting upon us every moment at an alarming pace. Being disabled gives us the time to absorb things at a pace at which our brains would be more comfortable with. When the world is far too fast for us, it is only by slowing ourselves down that we can bring some sanity into our existences. Hence being disabled is a preferred state of being, like Picassian portraits, utterly broken to the point of being repulsive and even grotesque for those challenged the idea of the world doled out to us as being the most perfect while it was not. In a world like ours where choices drown our sanity and a surfeit of images camouflage reality, the only way to beat the gloss to access the gross is through disability. Disability has truly become a different ability.